Our friend in Austria sent out an urgent call for help. She found herself locked in a haunted orphanage and could not find her way out. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders, we could only help her via a video call. We could tell the atmosphere in the room was pretty scary, with weird noises randomly occurring, lights flashing between total darkness and the creepy art on the walls.
Our friend was handling herself pretty well as we helped her search through the rooms in the orphanage, even when she found herself crawling through secret passageways we uncovered. She lost her courage, however, when she crawled through a secret passageway under a desk and found herself in a cave housing a hidden temple to a powerful demon. That is when she began having a mild panic attack. Since we were safely in our home, helping via a video call, we at first got a little frustrated with what we believed was a bit of dramatic over-reacting.
We then realized that whether we thought our friend was taking her acting a bit far (this was an escape room experience after all), that there are times in life when we may not understand someone’s emotional reaction, but we need to be supportive nonetheless. So we played along, calming her while helping her work through the final puzzle so she could escape from the temple before the demon arrived to drag her down into the depths of someplace scary. For most of us, we have had times in our life when someone appears to over-react to something (at least that is how we see it from our point-of-view), and we need to dig deep down in ourselves to bring out some empathy to help them through it. There may even be times when we were having a full emotional reaction, and others didn’t seem to understand or care about our feelings.
This overwhelming rush of emotions is referred to as amygdala hijack, and there are a few strategies for overcoming it. Check out these resources for more information: